I was lucky enough to go to San Diego Comic Con this year and, like many others, unlucky enough to only have a badge for a single day. I fully expected to spend one day in rapture and three days crying into my cereal. But if anyone finds themself in my position in the future, I urge them to remember that you don’t need to be inside of the convention center to have the time of your life. And nothing in San Diego last weekend embodied that fact like Geek and Sundry’s Tabletop Gaming Lounge.
Geek and Sundry is an online video channel spearheaded by Felicia Day (Geek Goddess), that puts out original programming about all manner of nerdy things. In their own words, “We are an internet community centered around web videos with shows about comics, games, books, hobbies, and more. We want our audience to connect with each other through common interests online and in real life.” Comic Con, it seems, was a perfect opportunity for them to tackle the “in real life” part of their mission statement.
The lounge, located at Jolt’n Joe’s in the Gaslamp Quarter, is an open room filled with large, round tables surrounded by stools. Opposite the door is a full bar. Toward the back are couches, a dance floor, and a small stage. Last weekend, against the windows that look out onto a sprawling patio, there was the notable addition of a set of tables stacked with an impressive variety of tabletop games. These games were all free to borrow – just leave your ID, and the box is yours for as long as you want it. The lounge always seemed to be busy, but not crowded. It was comfortable in there – I never had trouble finding a group to strike up a game, or a table to play at.
If you’ve ever tried to get into tabletop gaming, you might recognize how prohibitively expensive most games are and how difficult it is to round up people who are willing to spend hours learning a complicated set of rules. That’s why the Geek and Sundry Gaming Lounge was so magical. Instead of laying down $60-100 to take home a game that you don’t even know if you’ll like, you could check out as many as you wanted over the course of the weekend. And the steady supply of people eager to learn new games meant you’d never be playing alone.
And then there’s the small matter of the celebrities hanging out in there all day.
I was wrapping up a game of Betrayal at House on the Hill (which I cannot recommend enough) when Felicia Day casually approached our table. She chatted with us about the game, sharing her own experience with it and congratulating our winner. The day before, I noticed Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, Tabletop) perusing the game table so nonchalantly that I had to ask someone if it was really him. The man I asked turned out to be Boyan Radavovich, a producer of Tabletop. After confirming that that was indeed Wil Wheaton, he proceeded to teach me and three other players how to play Takenoko (which I must also recommend).
The whole atmosphere was incredibly relaxed. Far from the starstruck fever of the rest of Comic Con, the celebrities wandered about and chatted with their fans in relative comfort. If people took pictures of them, they did so discreetly. No one professed their undying admiration or begged for an autograph. It was an opportunity to interact with geek royalty as if you’d simply met them in a bar to play some Star Trek Catan. Which is, of course, exactly what you’ve done if you step inside the lounge.
If four solid days of tabletop gaming sounds too monotonous for you, there were also panels and events scattered throughout the weekend. Felicia Day answered questions about her various projects and TV show roles at a Q&A panel Thursday morning, and then signed autographs, stopping to chat with each fan. There were also panels for The Guild, the Geek and Sundry vloggers, Vaginal Fantasy, and Rock Jocks. Wil Wheaton hosted a Star Trek Catan tournament, and live-tweeted the championship match as he played it. There were parties each night. Thursday’s was private, but on Friday night everyone was welcome to a delightful bash where the music was nerdy, the drinks were reasonably-priced, and the crowd was fantastic. Felicia Day played Kings of Tokyo with fans in the corner. Alexis Denisof (Angel, Much Ado About Nothing) wandered in for a turn on the dance floor. Jim Michaels (producer for Supernatural) made an appearance as well, chatting with the Geekiary editors but refusing to spill any details about season 9.
Finally, if video gaming is more your speed, there was a second room in the lounge devoted to demos of upcoming games like Thief, Murdered, and Final Fantasy XIV.
There is no better place to spend your down time during the convention, whether you’re between panels or you just don’t have a badge. The Geek and Sundry lounge is truly Comic Con magic without the stress and press of the convention center. The only thing I can’t figure out is why it didn’t have a line out the door at all hours of the day. Is it because people just don’t realize how awesome it is?
Oh. Wait. But now you all know.
And I want to be able to get in when I go back next year.
Crap, where did I put that neuralizer?
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